Newman alumna Candice Urban and multiple Newman staff members took part in the “Wear Blue: Run to Remember Wear Blue Mile” event at this year’s Prairie Fire Marathon Oct. 13 in Wichita
The Wear Blue organization honors fallen members of the United States military in many ways. One way is by organizing a tribute run that takes place during marathons called the Wear Blue Mile. The organization only does the Wear Blue Mile in 13 races across the country.
The first half of the Wear Blue Mile features posters of fallen service members, each submitted by their family, friends and those they served with. During the second half, volunteers line the street holding full-size American flags with a black streamer that reads the name of a fallen service member.
“Each runner and volunteer becomes a part of our living memorial in that sacred mile,” said Urban. “When runners and volunteers come out and experience the Wear Blue Mile, it is an incredibly unique experience.”
The Wear Blue Wichita chapter was founded by Urban and her friend in 2015 after they experienced a Wear Blue Mile in Washington, D.C.
They attended the Marine Corp Marathon in honor of her high school friend Capt. Christopher Norgren, a fallen Marine.
Urban and her friend were looking forward to being a part of something bigger than themselves, she said.
“At mile 12, Wear Blue: Run to Remember was there with their tribute mile to fallen service members. Chris was the last poster on the right that year. I was so moved by the efforts of their team and immediately felt attached to their mission that my best friend and I came home and wanted to start a local chapter of their organization.”
They created the local chapter in 2015 and held their first meeting with only three members. The organization has grown to more than 450 members in the past four years.
Two years ago, their coordinator approached the Prairie Fire Marathon to ask about holding a Wear Blue Mile during the popular Wichita event. Urban said marathon organizer Bob Hanson was on board from the start.
Urban recalled, “In 2018, during a rain, hail and snowstorm, 104 volunteers stood out in the conditions to be a part of this opportunity.”
Each year, the organization strives for more volunteers and this year, Newman Registrar Lori Gibbon was excited to be a part of it. She and her husband, Sinh, a retired U.S. infantry officer, had been active in a Washington Wear Blue chapter before relocating to Wichita last year and were eager to get involved locally.
“The Wear Blue organization always has a piece of my heart represented as a military spouse,” said Gibbon. “I am one of the fortunate in the fact that my spouse returned home from all of his deployments and was able to retire from service. Even though he is retired, we continue to serve and recognize the dedication and respect all of our service members deserve.”
The Gibbons looked forward to taking part in the tribute at the Prairie Fire Marathon.
“This is such a wonderful organization. I immediately saw an opportunity for growth in addition to allowing Newman to partner with the Wichita community in showing our respect and support for our fallen and their families.”
Gibbon reached out to a few Newman staff members who she thought would be interested and said the response she received was phenomenal.
“We were proud to represent Newman while honoring the fallen. My only regret was not providing enough notice to have an even larger group participating. But, that’s what goals are made of. We hope to broaden our Newman participation with each passing opportunity,” said Gibbon. “It was also tremendous to see some of the runners in the race in Newman gear.”
Senior Development Officer for University Advancement Beth Fatkin is a military family member and said she was honored to be a part of this event. Her sons both experienced a loss in the Army and Fatkin said, “It is important for me to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom.”
Urban invites the Newman community to attend any Wear Blue event. They are all family-friendly and free. Wear Blue hosts two monthly meetups: Buffalo Park at 8 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month or College Hill Park at 8 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of each month.
Each meetup includes a Circle of Remembrance, during which participants gather in a circle, call out the names of the fallen, and then walk or run to reflect on their sacrifice.
Check the Wichita Wear Blue Facebook page for all current activities.